The Selfishness of Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is not something we do for other people. We do it for ourselves…to get well and move on.”

“The first to forgive is the strongest.”

“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”

It’s great to see so much encouragement on social media and in everyday conversations to encourage forgiveness, but how well are we representing what forgiveness is and should be?

I get the motivation behind it. Forgiveness is tough. We often feel the other person doesn’t deserve it. Sometimes they refuse it, and other times, we don’t even have the option of saying it aloud to them. So, we make it more about ourselves than the other person. The scales begin to slide, and we can justify finally forgiving someone, because it helps us, too.

Forgiveness does, indeed, take a weight off of us. Someone once explained it to me as taking someone off my hook and putting them on God’s hook. In reality, the person was already on God’s hook, regardless of what I did. Forgiving them was simply my acknowledgement of His authority, power, and grace. And a reminder of His mercy to me.

God wants my burdens, but He doesn’t want me to release them selfishly. He doesn’t want forgiveness to become about what I gain by it. He simply wants me to stand under His authority. My forgiveness is a mere shadow of His. And His forgiveness has always been and is completely unselfish. Letting His Son leave His side and live a messy life on earth and suffer rejection and a horrific death? No selfishness. Jesus asked for forgiveness on our behalf; we only have forgiveness because of Him. He didn’t live and die for Himself. He did it for us. Completely unselfish.

So, why do we forgive? Because God says that’s the way to respond. It’s a reflection of His love. It’s not easy. In fact, it feels tortuous at times. It doesn’t make sense. But neither does dying to ourselves to live with Him and humbly choosing last, which actually becomes first. Everything doesn’t make sense, at least, to us. And that’s okay.

Don’t buy the distortions of forgiveness the world is trying to get past you. They might sound good and make you feel good, but only truth sustains and endures.

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